Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wake Up Sid! I Just Fell in Love.

Like the first soft drops of the monsoon, Sid's quiet tears on Aisha's doorstep and the gentle development of the love between them, Wake Up Sid crept gently into that part of my heart reserved for films that become part of my psyche, happy places that I visit when I need to smile.

I won't go into too much plot detail with spoilers because I don't wish to deprive anyone of the experience of falling in love with this perfect, simple film. Like Aisha's article, this movie is a love letter to Mumbai, to independence and to the journey from childhood to adulthood. If you're a bit older than the characters in the movie, as I am, it can be about waking up to the fact that life is just passing you by if you're not doing something you love. There are still things to be learned about yourself even 10 years down the road.

Konkona Sen Sharma as Aisha is wonderful as usual. I like her so much as an actress. She doesn't have the kinetic vibrancy of Kajol, my other favorite actress, but she has a soulfulness, intelligence and quiet strength that she brings to her characters that I adore. She is nurturing without losing herself which I heartily applaud. So often, women nurture by sacrificing parts of themselves, but her characters never seem to lose their identities while steering the men in their lives to self actualization.

Ranbir Kapoor surprised me and I think I have a small crush on him now. He portrays Sid's youthful arrogance and sense of entitlement with just enough sweetness to make sure the audience cares for him and is invested in his journey. As Sid grows as a person, Ranbir brings a new vulnerability to the character that makes you believe that Sid is learning and maturing. You really care about this spoiled brat and root for him.

Sid's friends Rishi and Laxmi don't get nearly enough screen time if you ask me but they do tremendous jobs with what they are given. Played by Namit Das and Shikha Talsania respectively, Sid's friends are endearing and real and you'll wish you had a Rishi and Laxmi in your life. They are so likeable as characters that they help greatly in winning the audience over to Sid because if he has such great friends, then he must not be just a spoiled brat but a good person with a good heart as well. I look forward to seeing both of them in future films.

What can I say about Anupam Kher as Sid's dad? Anupam is my favorite film dad of all time. When he's at his best playing a father (and he's at his best here), I always believe that his kid(s) are the most important thing in his life and that he loves them unconditionally. His performances are so warm and realistic that, no matter how small or ancillary the role, I enjoy them thoroughly.

Supriya Pathak is lovely too as Sid's mother. There are times when she looks at Sid with such love and hope in her eyes, pleading with him to acknowledge that he understands what she does for him and how much she loves him, that it almost breaks your heart.

Finally, we have Rahul Khanna as Aisha's boss. He's handsome, sexy, intelligent and, ultimately, a good guy. Rahul Khanna pulls off this small role beautifully. He flawlessly embodies every woman's fantasy about the sophisticated, gorgeous, older man we dream of sweeping us off our feet.

The screenplay and direction by Ayan Mukherji are terrific, especially considering this is his debut film. It feels as though the screenplay was fully realized before filming began which doesn't often seem to be the case with Hindi films. As a screenwriter he has written a story about relationships and becoming who you're meant to be that really makes sense. As a director , he has made the interaction between the characters and each of their journeys feel authentic and logical but, at the same time, very heartfelt and loving. He has also made Mumbai feel like a magical, beautiful place and one of the most vital characters in the movie. If I hadn't wanted to travel there before, I certainly do now.

So, as the first rains of the monsoon transform Mumbai, do those first tears of Sid's begin the transformation of an irresponsible young man to loving, successful adult? You have to watch the movie! Where will you end up? If you're like me, you'll end up wishing you lived in Aisha's flat, had friends like Sid's and were standing on the shore in Mumbai as the first monsoon rains fall on you.

But, even if you don't have those things, you might just be inspired to rethink what it is you really want to do with your life and, at the very least, Wake Up Sid will be a happy little place that you can always go to when you need a smile.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Non-Bolly Film and Book Rec

The film I have for you this Friday is Indochine a French film from 1992 starring Catherine Deneuve, Vincent Perez and Linh Dan Pham.

I watched this film several years ago when I was in my Vincent Perez phase which was comparitvele short-lived but rather intense. He's another actor who has incredibly expressive eyes which I find so intriguing.

The movie takes place in French Indochina and is about a French woman who owns a rubber plantation and the orphaned Vietnamese girl that she raises as her own daughter. It is set in the 1930s against the backdrop of the rising Vietnamese Nationalist movement. Vincent Perez plays the French Naval Officer that mother and daughter both fall in love with. How real that love is, is a question I have often struggled with. As in most works of art that deal with the shift from colonialism to post-colonialism, most of the characters and relationships represent larger ideas about the relationship between countries than what appears on the surface.

This is an intense film loaded with passion, beautiful locations, desperate love affairs and intrigue.

My book recommendation this week is Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

I read this book in a college literature class that focused on colonial and post-colonial literature. My professor was a wonderful woman named Zoreh Sullivan who had a lovely British accent shaded with something else, though I was never sure what. She called the first half of the semester "Literature of the Empire" and it included books written by the colonizers about the lands and people they colonized i.e. Rudyard Kipling a British author born in Bombay, etc. The second half of the semester was called, "The Empire Writes Back" and included books written by the colonized i.e. Jean Rhys who was born in Dominica to a Welsh father and Creole mother.

Wide Sargasso Sea tells the story of Mr. Rochester's wife from Jane Eyre. Who was this woman? What made her lose her mind? What life might she have led before ending up in the attic? Jean Rhys gives her an identity and a life beyond the shadow figure raving in the attic and, in the process, makes a statement about colonialism and loss of native identity. This book left such an impression on me that I have never been able to read Jane Eyre. I read Wide Sargasso Sea before ever attempting Jane Eyre and had such sympathy for Antoinette, that I have felt a grudge against Mr. Rochester and Jane ever since.

This is a lush book full of heady passion and one woman's struggle, like her country, to be herself and be proud of it rather than conform to what the colonizers would make of her. As she goes from innocence to madness, you begin to realize you cannot desire something for its wildness and inherent natural beauty only to then try to assimilate it, necessarily destroying the things that made you desire it in the first place and expect a good outcome. This is what happens to Antoinette and, on a larger scale, those countries subjected to colonialism. (There is also a movie from 1993 if you are so inclined.)

70s Bollywood Youtube Style

Since 70s Week is drawing to a close and I feel that watching Sholay and Zanjeer aren't really getting me into the spirit of the fabulousness of the 70s, I decided try something different tonight. I went to youtube, typed in 70s Bollywood and went through the results picking out the ones I thought were the most fun.

This first video is from a movie called Star and I liked it because it reminded me of how I wanted to be a Solid Gold Dancer when I was a kid.

The next one is from the Bollywood version of The Exorcist, Jadu Tona. I think the reason I like it should be self-explanatory, especially when you get to about 0:53. Must be a Lionel Ritchie demon!

In this video, you have 70s fabulous Bolly ladies and PUPPETS!!! Faboo!

Funky video from Hare Rama Hare Krishna starring Zeenat Aman and Dev Anand. She wears some pink sunglasses I would kill for and he wears a poncho I would not. Plus, a bunch of people smoke a lot of pot!

And, finally, because you must have known I would find a way to fit SRK into 70s week, video of him talking about Bollywood in the 70s from around the time OSO came out.

I used to hate 70s fashions but they seem to be growing on me as I get older. Maybe it's just that, as a toddler growing up in a small town in Central Illinois during the 70s, I was never BollyFabulous. My mom however, had this one green polyester jumpsuit...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sholay or Those Are Some Fancy Shoes Thakur or D'Oh! Widowed Again or Bromance Forever

For Bollywood 70s Week, I chose to begin with the movie that is said to have changed Indian cinema forever, the Blockbuster of all blockbusters, Sholay. Till now, I haven't seen any Bollywood film older than Shah Rukh Khan's oldest film so, say 1994? I don't have much of a frame of reference for my review of Sholay as either representative of the 70s or the revelation it apparently turned out to be to film audiences. I don't know what typical 70s fare was in Bollywood or how Sholay may have differed from that. I most likely cannot do it justice because while I was watching it,I was thinking more about the Clint Eastwood movies I grew up watching with my Dad than any other Hindi films. So, with that disclaimer...on with the review.

Sholay does have several things that make me happy: 1) morally ambiguous heroes a la my favorite of all time, Han Solo. Yes they are just there for the money in the beginning but eventually a hot chick and doing the right thing will get them to stick around, 2) a motorcycle with a sidecar. I don't know why but I've always loved them, 3) someone playing a poignant harmonica at dusk while someone else listens wistfully, and 4) a villain who refers to himself in the third person and lackeys who laugh when the villain laughs because they don't want to die. It also has an ambiguously gay duo, an annoying chatterbox played by Hema Malini who is supposed to be charming, about an hour too much film, and an unfortunate attempt at humor in the form of a prison warden who looks like Hitler. Has Hitler ever been even slightly amusing? Didn't think so.

I enjoyed all of the performances except for Hema Malini. Maybe she was bad or maybe it was just an awful role and she played it well, either way, I wish I'd had Amitji's earplugs. Jaya had the perfect look for the young, soulful widow. She didn't really do much throughout the film but I thought she was physically perfect for the role. Dharmendra was charming as the funny, boisterous half of the heroic duo and Amitabh was the perfect foil as the quieter more intense of the two. Let me also say, as much as he irritates me in his current public avatar, in 1975 Amitabh could definitely rock a red T-Shirt. I found him much more compelling in the attraction department than I did Dharmendra.

That was the end of Gabbar Singh, the man who killed my father, raped and murdered my sister, burned my ranch, shot my dog and stole my Bible.

OK, so I stole that from the opening of Romancing the Stone. In my defense, I couldn't stop thinking of the opening scenes of Romancing the Stone when the movie was showing us the dastardly deeds of our villain. He's a real baddie, make no mistake. He will kill your daughters and their husbands and then smile into the eyes of your innocent, young grandson as he pulls the trigger. He'll also cut off both of your arms simultaneously with a couple of wicked looking swords. You do not want to cross Gabbar Singh! That's why Thakur hires those wacky thieves Jai and Veeru to do the job for him...well that and he doesn't have arms anymore so kinda hard to do it himself.

After we're introduced to the characters and we get the exposition out of the way, what follows is several near misses between Gabbar's bandits and Jai and Veeru. When they're not out trying to capture Gabbar, Veeru is drinking and making passes at the annoying chatterbox and Jai is soulfully playing the dusk and tempting the sad little widow Radha (Jaya). Sholay is pretty much your typical shoot 'em up western revenge tale. The shootout scenes were not too much more over the top than what you'll find in any American western which was a bit of a surprise. Sholay is definitely derivative of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as well as any of the spaghetti westerns you can think of. If you like those movies, you'll probably get a kick out of Sholay.

Ultimately, I guess Sholay didn't really live up to all of the hype for me but that's often what happens when you hear great things about a movie before you see it. I will say that it seemed rather restrained in the filminess department so maybe it was considered gritty and realistic when it came out? Again, it was just ok for me. I've read that there is an alternate ending in which the Thakur gets to finish killing Gabbar but it was censored to prevent sending any positive messages about vigilantism. I would have liked that ending better. Actually, I think Radha should have gotten to do the deed since he basically widowed her twice. In any case, I'd rather watch Clint Eastwood. Sholay is the stuff that legends are made of but, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, I guess you kinda had to be there. (Oh stop gasping! Not everyone loves the Beatles and the Rolling Stones you know!)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Salaam Namaste or Greetings! You're Pregnant? Goodbye.


Salaam Namaste is the story of two 20-something NRI's, Nick and Ambar, living in Melbourne. She has defied her family's expectations and left India for Australia where she's a radio “RJ” and medical student. He studied architecture as his father wanted but became a chef instead because that's what he wanted. They meet, sort of, hate each other, really meet, love each other and then things get complicated.

I don't like most of the Indian comedies that I come across. I find the humor too broad and slapstick for my taste (There's a reason I consider a love of the 3 Stooges a deal-breaker in any and all relationships!). So, I was afraid from the first 20 minutes or so of Salaam Namaste that the movie was going to be awful. Weird sound effects, that whole freeze-a-character-on-screen-while-a- narrator-introduces-them-and-then-quickly-cut-back-to-the-action thing complete with wacky sound effects, and the clownish side characters had me poised over the stop button on my remote control. Add to that the fact that Nick and Ambar were both really unlikeable at first. Nick is an irresponsible man-child who refuses to apologize for bad behavior and Ambar is no better. She stoops to Nick's level and the first 20 minutes is like watching two five year olds play “I know you are but what am I.” Saif acts poorly in the first few scenes and Preity is at her shrill, overly bubbly worst. The one thing that kept me from turning it off after 10 minutes was Ron (Arshad Warsi). Meet Ron, Nick's best friend, we like him.

Sweet, clueless but goodhearted, Ron is pretty much the only conscience that Nick has for the first 2/3 of the film.

Still, even Ron's goofy sweetness couldn't keep me from giving up but then one of the best parts of the movie happened...this kid

Seriously, he made me laugh out loud so I decided to sit down and commit for the duration of the film. It was not a bad decision as soon after, Nick and Ambar finally meet face to face and the chemistry between Preity and Saif kicks in and they are kind of adorable together. I'm not saying the scorch the screen but they're like two exuberant puppies that are just too cute to ignore. When Nick first sees Ambar:

Maybe it's her nipples! That's the first female nipple I've ever seen in a Hindi film. I've been thinking they must tape those babies down because in all the rain scenes and dancing in the frozen Alps, I've marveled at never having seen one.

What follows is your typical, tropical, Fame-goes-to-the-beach item number. See the mulletted groom?

I did love the dance sequence in the water.

If there's one thing that Hindi films have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt it's that people are sexier when you just add water (though maybe not the pasty white groom). I think Hollywood should take note. I wouldn't mind seeing George Clooney in a rain scene or two.

The next hour or so is filled with much squishy sweetness that had my dil going Mmmmm which, by the way, is the name of the next item number which I enjoyed despite the toothache it gave me, plus Preity in the cutest outfit ever:

Nick finally shows up at the radio station for his interview. Who wouldn't melt?

His proposal to her that they live together is one of the most sigh-worthy speeches you will ever hear. So, Ambar and Nick have moved in together, they've fallen in love and so have I despite their rocky start with each other and my rocky start with this movie.

Unfortunately, just when things are going well for me and our heroes, consequences must be faced. Ambar discovers that she is pregnant despite the fact that they use protection ALL the time. In the awful scene where this conversation takes place, she reminds Nick that no birth control method is 100% effective. I almost expected her to then say “except abstinence.” But she couldn't because Nick was too busy saying this:

A piece of advice to the men out there, that's probably the worst thing you could say to a woman who just told you that she is pregnant with your child.

Nope, actually, that is.

The next 20 minutes or so play out like some Christian school Health class video on the evils of abortion. Let me just say here that I'm not comfortable with the abortion debate as a whole. I used to be strongly pro-life but as I got older, I realized that no one can really know what the best decision is until they find themselves in that position. Which is the point, it's a decision that a person has to make one way or the other. I am passionately against abortion as a form of birth control and in a perfect world, no one would ever become pregnant without planning for it but the world is far from perfect. Women have to make the decision for themselves and answer to their own conscience and belief system as they see fit. So, the movie has its soap box and I've just had mine. Let's move on.

Ambar does not have the abortion which infuriates Nick and has him accusing her of ruining both of their lives. Ambar refuses to leave the home they have already paid a year's rent on so for the next 9 months, conveniently, they live together while Ambar nurses her heartbreak and Nick nurses his petulance at not getting his way. Eventually, of course, Nick realizes that he loves Ambar and wants to spend the rest of his life with her and their twins...yes, twins and we end with a filmi delivery that only Bollywood and Father of the Bride II could give us.

Overall, the movie was OK. I had the same reaction that I have for many movies I see. As a whole,not very clear in its message or purpose but it definitely had a scene here and there that was worth the watch. My remaining gripes are that I think Nick showed himself to be an immature, selfish a-hole and I didn't see anything in the story that convinced me that he had gone on any kind of journey that changed him or matured him. I don't quite know why Ambar would really take him back after the way he acted. My heart genuinely broke for her during the Tu Jahaan item number, one of the best parts of the movie, in which she keeps imagining Nick being the loving partner at her side that she wants him to be. I also don't know what they really have in common that they could base a marriage on. I have a hard time believing that he will make a good father. I actually see Ambar as a divorced, single mom not too far down the road. I kept hoping for Ron to have a "Snap out of it!" talk with Nick and give him a couple of tight slaps but, alas, his character was underused in that capacity. In addition, I find the film follows that old about-NRIs-film cliché of glorifying the “NRI lifestyle” of living alone, away from family, engaging in premarital sex, etc. Then, BOOM! Hitting you with the devastating consequences of living that life i.e. the thinly veiled “this is what you get for having pre-marital sex” scene and the pro-life propaganda film. But in the end, having the characters do the “right” thing that all good boys and girls do and get married. To the extent that he actually stops her during hard labor for a proposal scene so they can be engaged before the babies pop out.

All to reassure the aunties and uncles back home in India that their wayward families and the boys they want their daughters to marry, are acceptable despite being raised wrong. It's OK if you want to make movies with that message but it's been done before, more directly and more convincingly.

Anyway, maybe I took this movie too seriously. I didn't intend to until the whole “Kill it!” scene. That, I could not ignore. Two things to be praised:

Abhi makes everything better!! Loved his special appearance as the bumbling doctor. Yes, he's ridiculous but he's Abhi...he makes me smile no matter what.

The crazy landlord, well-played by Jaaved Jaffrey, was funny at times though the interaction with his brainless bimbo (the only recurring white character in the movie, of course) girlfriend got really old really fast. Still, someone should have won an award for the perfectly calico side burns!

Anyway, quite a bit to laugh at and quite a bit to bitch about but then I have a talent for bitching. Still, I think most people could definitely miss this movie and not be missing much.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Yummy, Easy, Healthy Indian-inspired Wrap Recipe

A few people have asked me for this recipe so I thought since it's Indian-inspired it wouldn't be terribly out of place on my Bollywood Blog.

I created this recipe one night when I was desperate for something new and exciting to eat without having to go to the grocery store. I say it is Indian-inspired because the chicken marinade was made up from spices that go into Chicken Tikka Masala. Believe me, this receipe takes a fraction of the time and has a fraction of the fat and calories of Chicken Tikka Masala. A word of warning, the measurements for everything are guesses. I just throw stuff together without measuring. You may want to make adjustments to your own taste. Please try it and enjoy! If you like it, come back and let me know. If you pass it on, just give credit where credit is due. And, if you try to publish it in that recipe book that you've been working on, I'm a lawyer...I'll sue you ;)


5 oz white meat chicken
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp garlic salt
2 or 3 tbsp lemon juice
2 high fiber tortillas (I use La Tortilla Factory's Smart and Delicious large tortillas. They have 12g fiber each!)
6 tbsp roasted red pepper hummus (I use Sabra brand)
1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
1/4-1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

* Makes 1 serving. 1 serving = 2 wraps

Cut the chicken into bite size pieces (I buy the chicken tenderloins and just cut them into pieces with kitchen scissors) and throw into a small bowl. To the bowl of chicken add the spices and the lemon juice. Stir well.

No need to let it marinate but you can if you want. Heat a small amout of olive oil in a skillet and toss in the chicken and any left over marinade. It will only take 5-10 minutes for the meat to cook.

Meanwhile, take two tortillas and heat them in the microwave for 1 minute. Take them out and spread 3 tbsp of the hummus on each one. When the chicken is done, put half on each tortilla. Divide the lettuce and onion between the two tortillas, roll and eat. Simple, fast and delicious!

Each wrap is is 5-6 WW points depending on how much chicken and hummus you use.

Friday, February 19, 2010

First Friday Film and Book Rec

While this blog is intended to focus on Bollywood films and all things filmi and fabulous, I also have a love of foreign (i.e. non-American) films, indie films and lesser known Hollywood films. I also read...a lot. I'm always thrilled when someone turns me onto a movie or book that I fall in love with so I thought I would do my part each Friday to introduce anyone who cares to some, hopefully, new friends and obsessions.

Today's recommendation in film is "A Price Above Rubies".
Actors you'll recognize: Renee Zellweger, Christopher Eccleston, Julianna Margulies

The title comes from Proverbs 31:10, in the King James translation, which says "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." This is the story of a Hasidic Jewish woman who moves to a new community so her very pious and scholarly husband can be closer the the Rabbi he studies with. Her husband lives more in the intellectual and spiritual world than the real world so his wife is relegated to the back burner of his life. The movie is about her journey to understanding her own needs and desires and that her destiny may take her away from the only community and family she has ever known.

I like this movie because I always enjoy stories about people who, despite the pain and difficulties involved,choose a new path in life though it takes them away from everything they've ever known. These stories serve as reminders to us that just when we think we've got it all figured out, life can always take us somewhere unexpected and we need to have the courage to do what's necessary to live the most honest life we can because life is too short to live the way other people, society as a whole, or any outside force thinks we should.

Today's recommendation in books is Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors

This is a work of fiction set against the historical background of the building of the Taj Mahal. It has political intrigue, romance, and architecture. It's the story of Princess Jahanara the supposed favorite child of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz. It encompasses the love story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz, Jahanara and the love her life, and that of Jahanara for her parents and her own child. It's about passion, duty, undying love and what happens when those three forces are in conflict with one another. The author really makes 17th century India come alive for his readers. I did not want to put it down, cried through the last 3 chapters and was sad to have finished it. Please give it a shot, I think you'll love it if you do.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Name is Khan and my 2nd half will frustrate and disappoint you

I have already read quite a few reviews and many people have already hit on the most important points in more cogent ways than I can so this will most likely devolve into more of a rant which is what I'm best at anyway. You've been warned...

As someone who watches a fair number of Bollywood movies, though I am still relatively new to Hindi cinema, I am much more likely to suspend disbelief than the mainstream American movie watching public. That being said, even I was physically cringing about 5 minutes into the second half of this movie.

Wilhemina, GA, if you exist, I never want to visit because you now represent a black hole of disappointment to me. From the first moment that funny hair Joel's voice assaults you, I was squirming in my seat. This boy? girl? (still not sure about that) was acting like he? was on stage in a warehouse and trying to get across to one audience member at the opposite end of the building. Over-acting doesn't begin to describe it. The music that played when the door opened to Mama Jenny' it a home or a Juke Joint out of The Color Purple? It just gets worse from there.

Hey KJo, if you can do English subtitles when the characters are speaking Hindi, why not have Rizwan (who speaks very good English) speak English in the church when he is having the big emotional scene talking about Sam and use Hindi subtitles on the screen? The way it is now, I was wondering where all the residents of Wihemina learned Hindi since they all seemed to understand what he said. Maybe Rosetta Stone has a radio program that they listen to on the wireless?

The interrogator?! Really Karan? He's the best American actor you could find? I happen to know that there are probably hundreds of thousands of members of the Screen Actors Guild who would have sold their grandmother for a paying role in a movie. I'll bet you a million dollars that 90% of them could have acted that part better than the hack you hired. But, you do this all of the time so why should I be so surprised. Did an American pick on you when you were a kid or something because you seem to delight in choosing the worst actors you can find to play the American roles in your movies.

"Bloody Paki????" The only time I have ever heard that is in Bend it Like Beckham which, guess what? Takes place in England where people actually say "bloody" and know that Paki is a derogatory term. You're right about one thing, most Americans know very little about the intricacies of relations between different factions in the Muslim world and relations between Hindus and Muslims, etc. thus they also have no idea what a "Paki" is or that that is insulting or that some people believe that there is a difference beween Pakistanis and Indians other than a national border. Cut it out KJo! You're smarter than that.

Also, a lesson for you, though it should be common sense, if you can get into a hurricane/flood ravaged area, you can get out of it and that's what we do. We evacuate people when we're able too. We also still have a National Guard present for national disasters even when we're fighting wars in multiple countries. Just last week they evacuated people from highways in the East who were stuck in their cars during the blizzard. Luckily those people didn't have to resort to eating each other and trying to build fires in their glove boxes which is presumably what would happen in your world rather than removing themselves from the situation.

Don't even get me started with the woman at the African Relief benefit. I would have maybe let it slide if she had told him the event was for specific church groups only...still offensive but not as much as "for Christians only." If we made a film that had some similar sweeping generalizations about Hinduism or Islam, there would be rioting in the streets. For an educated man, this makes Karan look like an ignorant bigot which is ironic since I think that was the point he was trying to make about some Americans and some Christians.

I'm sure there is more I could bitch about if I thought about it some more, dead floating bodies come to mind, but why nitpick when there are so many immense flaws to discuss? Instead, let me now talk about what I loved about the movie, because I did love the first half and, of course, SRK!! Shah Rukh's performance was an absolute delight to watch.

Now, I could watch Shah Rukh sit quietly and read a book to himself for 3 hours and be entertained but he really was even more wonderful than usual in this role. You could see that he put a lot of study into what he was portraying and that he was trying very hard to be respectful in his performance. He succeeded in spades in my opinion. I don't believe any other actor could actually make you fall in love in a romantic sense with this character. I wondered going into it if they would deal with the physical aspect of marriage or just ignore it. I have to give them props for dealing with it in a funny, sensitive, wholly appropriate and charming way. I also have to say that even as a man with Asperger's, Shah Rukh is so handsome and charming that he makes my toes curl.

The first half of the movie that concentrates on the love story between Rizwan and Mandira is beautiful and I had a smile on my face the whole time. I was totally taken in by all of it. The scene where he shows her the view of SF at sunrise and it finally all comes together for Mandira was magical. I read one review, written by a man, and he said it was unbelievable that a woman would want to marry Rizwan and take on another child. Not even addressing how offensive that is since Rizwan was clearly very capable of taking care of himself and Sam and Mandira, the reviewer must have also missed the part about Mandira's first husband being a slimy beast, idiot, bastard. When your first marriage is arranged and he emotionally abuses you for three years, then abandons you for another woman with an infant in a foreign country with no means of support and never even sees his own child and then you meet this pure hearted man who clearly loves you though he may not be able to say it, puts all of his being into caring for you and your son and and wants nothing more than to be with you and your son, why wouldn't you fall in love with him? I don't have a slimy beast of an ex-husband and I fell in love with Rizwan.

Kajol is my favorite Hindi film actress. From the first dance in the procession in K3G, I have been in awe of her vibrancy and the energy of her screen presence. I also happen to like that off-screen she doesn't give a crap what people think of her. I thought she was lovely as Mandira and I can't imagine another actress who could be Mandira more convincingly. That being said, she has a few moments where her talking too fast got on my nerves and was distracting from the scene and she had a couple of times where the lines just came out really badly. Even so, the scene where she prepares Sam's body was beautifully done and very powerful. I read a review by someone who said she was too filmi in that scene but you really can't be too filmi in a scene that deals with a mother losing her child. I've seen someone very close to me go through it and there is just no way you can overplay that kind of anguish. She was spot on.

There were some beautiful scenes in the movie. I particularly loved the scene of Rizwan sitting under an enormous Joshua Tree at sunset writing in his journal. These are the things that Karan excels at and his shots of San Francisco were likewise lush and beautiful. Unfortunately, someone also needs to tell him that there are no Joshua Trees in Kentucky and Death Valley can only consistently be used as a backdrop for Tatooine, not the entire United States.

So, overall, a very flawed movie that frustrates me to no end because the ingredients were there for a huge crossover success but the second half was just too ridiculous for words. Sadly, some important messages that maybe a lot of Americans should hear will get lost in the noise of preposterousness. I was actually very affected by the scene in the mosque. I thought it was well done without being too heavy handed but the mainstream American audience will miss out on it because no one involved in the making of MNIK could be bothered to fully commit and have some honest Americans on staff to tell them to cut out the bullshit. If I sound angry it's because I am a bit. I respect and love SRK, Kajol, Hindi cinema and, yes, even Karan, so much that I want them to be successful with non-Indian Americans too. I want the Western world to appreciate them as much as I do and this film could have done it if the second half had been as well done as the first. Instead, it went off the rails and turned into melodramatic mishmash of offensive stereotypes, filmi overindulgence and slap dash filmcraft. Shah Rukh deserved a perfect film for his perfect performance and he didn't get it.

What's Your Rashee?..Ugh! What's Your Point?

I really wanted to like this movie. I thought it might be one of those that I really liked despite what everyone else said about it...uh, yeah, no. Overly long, overly boring, overly bad...I don't think it really deserves a review beyond that so I will simply post my tweets from watching it yesterday.

1. Ok, here we go...what's your Rashee on instant netflix... maybe, if I can get a signal. I hate Comcast much of the time.

2. Seriously? A disclaimer about Astrology? God forbid you would offend astrologers and their followers.

3. I think me visiting India would be international incident waiting to happen as I rather enjoy pissing off people who are easily offended

4. Well, theme song sucks. let's see how much worse it gets

5. have to give them some leeway since they actually shot Chicago scenes in my beloved city :)

6. Harman Baweja cannot act and he looks nothing like Hrithik on screen so maybe he should just give up now.

7. What's Your Rashee? More like What's Your Point? Ashutosh... first the awards show outburst then this, when did u lose your mind?

8. Why Harman gets a lead role and someone like Kunal Kapoor does not is a mystery to me.

9. Why oh why are there 12 zodiac signs?

10. Oi vey! I've only made it half way. I've begun to rhyme, can't be a good sign. A rhyme and pun all in one. Help me!

11. The internet gods may have intervened. Lost the feed from Netflix.

12. What's Your Rashee actually broke my Tivo. Had to unplug to get it going again.

13. I will finish this movie. It has now become an epic quest!

14. Priyanka is too skinny!

15. Having fantasies of Kareena walking on screen and pushing Priyanka into the pool...and I don't even like Kareena but this movie is BAD!

16. Thank God that's over. Long, pointless vanity project.

I'm sure I should be offended by the whole, every woman looks the same thing and he doesn't even know who he's marrying at the ceremony, but I just don't have the energy left after watching it to care.

Heavy Sunday (or watching Rang De Basanti and Born Into Brothels back to back)

Sunday is the one day of the week that I do not have to do anything I don't want to do. I don't have to get up at any certain time, I don't have to work, I don't have to get dressed, leave my apartment or talk to another human being all day long if I don't want to. I, therefore, like to keep my Sundays light and uncomplicated. Sunday is the "Romantic Comedy" of the week as opposed to the Docudrama the rest of the week usually is. Then there was today.

I actually woke up in time to catch IFC's Wake Up with Bollywood movie, Rang De Basanti. I figured, "Hey, it's Bollywood on American TV so it will be a nice, light, fluffy, musical with a happy ending." In the beginning it was. A youngish English woman named Sue goes to India to make a documentary film about Bhagat Singh and other notable Indian freedom fighters who gave their lives at a very young age (23) for India's Independence. Much of her film is based on a diary written by her grandfather who was, through his superiors, charged with overseeing the imprisonment, torture and, ultimately, execution of said freedom fighters. Of course, he learned to respect the young men and hate his task.

Upon her arrival in India, she is greeted by her friend Sonia who assists her in several rounds of unsuccessful auditions for young men to play the freedom fighters in her movie. It seems as though today's kids just don't get it. Then Sonia introduces her to her core group of friends, four college guys that are cute, cool, Westernized and, of course, ambivalent about the state of affairs in India. Yes, India has its problems but nothing will ever change it so why even try, is their attitude. They agree to be in Sue's movie though they believe that they have nothing in common whatsoever with the freedom fighters who died over 60 years ago or the ideals they died for.

What follows is an hour and a half of "Oh look how fun it is to be them" movie-watching, filled with music video-like sequences of afternoons spent hanging out goofing around, budding romance, carefree youth. It's fun, it's fluffy, it's exactly what I was hoping to watch early on a Sunday morning. Then, disaster...Ajay, Sonia's fiance, who was only in about 2 scenes prior to this, has died when his fighter jet malfunctioned. Ajay is a hero, the jet malfunctioned due to faulty parts purchased as part of a corrupt government deal but the officials responsible, blame our hero in the media. Suddenly, passion is ignited in our young posse of pretty but inconsequential youngsters. They lead a peaceful protest march to India Gate that soon turns violent as the government tries to silence them.

At this point, I'm still on board. Maybe they'll go on to become lawyers and journalists and live good, happy lives fighting the good fight. Instead, they shoot the Minister of Defense down in the street as he takes his morning walk. Then one of the group, who happens to be the son of a businessman responsible for brokering the government deal for the faulty plane parts, goes home, tells dad what he did, hugs him and shoots him dead in the living room. They then take over All India Radio to confess that they are responsible for shooting the Minister and to explain why by taking calls from listeners. They are drinking coffee, hanging out, goofing around as usual, with the exception that the military and police are mobilizing outside to annihilate them.

When the police breach the building and start picking them off one by one, we get flashbacks of Bhagat Singh and his merry band of freedom fighters living out their final moments as a comparison. Then, what seem to be the ghosts of those original martyrs look on in seeming pride as these promising young men bleed their lives out on the floor of the radio stattion.

The movie ends with a shot of the five of them laughing, running through the fields of the place they used to hang out together as though there is a heaven of perpetual college life waiting for them on the other side.

Lest you doubt, I did enjoy this movie. It pushed all the appropriate emotional buttons. I laughed, I cried, I admired how good looking they all were, I wanted to be part of their group of cool kids...until they all went down in a blaze of glory. What I didn't enjoy is the message of this movie. This film makes it look romantic for five beautiful, promising young men who should be India's hope for the future not just to die for the revolution but to kill for the revolution.

And, I have to ask, where is the revolution? Unless your acts end up being a catalyst to real change on a national scale, isn't it just terrorism? Ask the IRA. If your "revolution" fails, history doesn't call it a revolution. What I know about Indian history could be written in the head of a pin but even I can see that the circumstances surrounding the actions of Bhagat Singh and his men were very different from the world the movie was set in. In fact, the guys say this more than once as an excuse for why they find it difficult to connect to playing the freedom fighters. It is a different world they live in.

I guess there is supposed to be some point in all of this about Indians needing freedom from the corruption of government which keeps the country mired in its problems of poverty, overcrowding, lack of resources, etc. But to so blatantly romanticize obtaining that through violence...just wrong. Maybe, in reality, violence is more's certainly more interesting in the short term. But cultures and nations will never evolve towards non-violent solutions until they start to believe that it is more tragic than romantic for young people to die for their country and that hope for the future lies in young people living for their ideals, not killing for them.

After that, I should have turned off the TV or, at the very least, tried a new channel but I didn't. I was still trying to process it all when the next show came on and sucked me in.

Born into Brothels has been in my Netflix queue for 2 years for a reason, I heard it was very good but very depressing and I have been avoiding heavy drama and depressing in my entertainment choices for about 2 years. Lucky for me, it was on right after Rang De Basanti today.

It was as good and as gut-wrenching as I knew it would be. If you haven't seen it yet, you should. The unconscious wisdom and resiliency of the featured children is heartbreaking. The one moment that touched me the most was something one of the boys said after the death of his mother. They said she died in a kitchen accident which turned out to be her pimp setting her on fire in her own kitchen. Her son, Avijit, about 10 years old said, "There is nothing called hope in my future."

For so many children in the world, that statement is tragically true. At the end of the documentary, we see that, for Avijit, it may not be true. He may be one of the lucky ones. It was, however, striking that these parents didn't even have enough hope to have hope for their children even when opportunity was handed to them.

So, a very heavy, thought-provoking morning has given birth to this blog. Most of the sadness from these movies stems from the loss or death of hope. Hope has become one of those words that we overuse almost as much as love. But, it's important to remember what powerful forces both are in the world. So, that is what I choose to take from these films rather than sadness...a renewed appreciation for hope.